Tips & Tricks — Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb
From the moment it was unleashed on the audio industry in 1978, the original Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb — with its tactile, slider-based controller and famously lush reverb tail — almost single-handedly defined the sound of an entire era. This article focuses on the fundamentals of getting started with the UAD Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb Plug-In and includes tips unique to the Lexicon 224* to maximize its sonic potential. For an expert understanding of the UAD-2 Lexicon 224, we highly recommend a read-through of the thorough —yet easy-to-follow — UAD-2 User Manual's Lexicon 224 section.
*Not to be confused with the similarly named but sonically different 224X or 224XL Lexicon models.
Traditionally, reverbs are set up as dedicated auxiliary channels, with dry signal sent to the reverb from the individual source channels. In this case, the reverb operates 100% wet, and is shared by as many tracks as needed. The Lexicon 224's Wet Solo button is handy for this. Another option is to drop the Lexicon 224 on a single source and use the dry/wet blend controls. The dry/wet blend buttons move in 1% steps. Holding the Shift button while clicking will allow you to fine-tune in 0.1% steps. For faster cycling, you can press and hold the increment/decrement buttons — much like you would on a clock radio.
Picking the Right Reverb
The Lexicon 224 has the eight front panel reverb programs and one chorus program. If you looked under the hood, you’d see that the Hall B programs are essentially the same algorithm, as are the Percussion Plate and Vocal Plate. While the 224’s algorithms generally follow the behavior of their acoustic or mechanical equivalents, the results are uniquely “Lexicon.”As a starting point, use the Plates (programs 2, 5, and 8) where you'd normally incorporate other plate reverbs like the EMT 140 Classic Plate Reverb Plug-In and use the Halls, Room, and Chamber in place of room modeling or impulse response (IR) reverbs. You should get wonderful results and that classic lush “Lexi” character right off the bat.
Tuning the Reverb
While the stock Lexicon 224 programs may be perfect in some situations, the prominent fader controls will likely tempt you into some immediate sonic sculpting. For example, the Reverb Time controls can easily be adjusted to the tempo or to some other rhythmic aspect of the song. The 224 also excels at very short reverb times — which work great on percussion sounds, for example — adding life to duller sounds.
In addition to the Reverb Time controls, the primary controls of the Lexicon 224 include Treble Decay, Depth, and Pre-Delay. The Treble Decay control sets the frequency above which reverb decay is very rapid. For example, if the reverberant sound is too bright, bring the Treble Decay fader down. The Depth control sets the apparent distance between a source and its reverb — much like the positioning of microphones in an echo chamber. If the sound is too distant, bring the Depth fader down. The Pre-Delay control produces a short delay between the sound source and the onset of reverberation. Allowing a small amount of time between the dry signal and the reverb preserves the transients of the dry signal — very handy for recording certain instruments such as drums. If the transients sound muddied, bring the Pre-Delay fader up.
These quick tips are only the tip of the iceberg. The Lexicon 224 is capable of going very deep, and can quickly move into lush reverb territory, creating some unreal soundscapes. Some programs will even self-oscillate at extremely long decay times resulting in ever-expanding reverb tails — similar to cranking up the feedback or intensity control on a tape delay. Each different reverb algorithm has a distinct decay pattern that will become familiar to you over time, and should be studied for maximum effectiveness while using the Lexicon 224.
Understanding the Unique Lexicon 224 Split Reverb Controls
The most important control in setting up any reverb’s sound is the reverb time, also known as “the tail.” Most reverbs only use a single control for adjusting reverb time, but the Lexicon 224 actually utilizes three controls. The Lexicon 224’s reverb time controls are split into two individual Bass and Mid bands. This split reverb tail allows broader control of the reverb response, with the ability to accentuate high or low frequencies in the tail.
Note: It is interesting to point-out that the Mid labeling is actually a misnomer, as the Crossover control can move between the entire reverb frequency response, but was probably labeled as such to avoid confusion with the Treble Decay control.
Accessing the Hidden Panel
Clicking the “Open” arrow on the right hand side of the Lexicon 224 plug-in opens a panel of hidden controls that were originally found on the exterior panel of the rackmount chassis. Included are gain trims and a power switch, as well as pitch shift and display hold functions.
How Make a Modern-Sounding Lexicon 224
While Universal Audio went to extreme lengths to bring the entire sound and behavior of the vintage Lexicon 224 Digital Reverb to its UAD-2 plug-in — as in transformer modeling, input converter gain-stepping, modulation stepping, parameter zippering, and noise floor modeling — the sonic byproducts of these components are not always desirable. In fact, a "modern" version of the Lexicon 224 may be ideal in certain situations. For example, quiet passages where noise may be more apparent would benefit greatly from the lack of artifacts that were inherent in the hardware. Simply click on the Sys Noise button to disable the modeled noise floor and artifacts from the original hardware. And with the availability of parameter automation in Universal Audio’s Lexicon 224 plug-in, sonic transitions can be much more fluid and expressive.
To learn more about the Lexicon 224 plug-in, check out the hands-on demo video below:
Want to chat with other users? Please visit the UAD Lexicon 224 plug-in thread at the unofficial UAD Forums here:
— Will Shanks